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5 things you should know about flipped learning

By Nicole Krueger
January 20, 2014
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Flipped learning — the name says it all. It's a 180-degree shift in how we approach learning and teaching. Our past way of thinking gets turned on its head as down becomes up and we reorient ourselves to a new model for student growth.

Many teachers around the globe report smashing success with the flipped model. D students become A students. Educators on the edge of burnout find their passion for teaching rekindled. But the process of flipping a classroom comes with growing pains, and knowing the challenges in advance can help you through the transition.

Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams, co-authors of Flip Your Classroom and instigators of the flipped revolution, encourage teachers to keep the following in mind as they embark upon their journey toward flipped learning.

1. Flipping is a messy process.

A flipped classroom will look and feel different than what you're used to, especially when you're just getting started. Learning how to make instructional videos, becoming familiar with the online tools you'll need to support your new class structure and re-imagining face-to-face time with your students will require some trial and error.

"It will take time," Sams said. "It's messy. You have to be comfortable trying things, making mistakes and putting in a lot of work up front. It takes a lot of time."

2. It's a game changer for students — and some will hate it.

Many students who have struggled in traditional classrooms are able to thrive under the flipped model, largely because it gives students more control over the pace at which they learn. Some, however, may have a difficult time adjusting.

"When kids struggle in school, it's often because they can't keep up. Having a pause button can really change the game for these kids," Bergmann said. "The kids who don't like it are usually those who have been successful for the wrong reasons. They've learned to play the game of school. We're changing the rules of the game, and some of them don't like that."

3. You'll work hard.

The ultimate goal of a flipped classroom is to allow for more student-driven learning, which means you'll spend the majority of class time answering questions and helping students progress through their work at different paces. You'll do a lot of switching gears.

"Coordinating and making sure all students are learning — it's very hard work," Bergmann said. "You're working with an advanced student one minute and the lowest student the next. You have to switch your whole mindset from moment to moment. It's exhausting, but it's best thing I've ever done."

4. Your students will work even harder.

In a successful flipped classroom, you won't find students sitting back and passively receiving information. Rather, they'll be hard at work creating projects, solving problems and discussing what they've learned.

"Go sit in on a classroom and watch a flipped class in action," Sams said. "The students are the hardest-working people in the classroom, and that's how it should be."

5. You'll become even more irreplaceable.

Many educators who are skeptical about flipped learning have posed the question: If we start delivering lectures via online video, what do we need teachers for?

The truth is, Bergmann said, we need teachers for much more than merely delivering content. Rather than making teachers obsolete, flipping allows them to focus on what they do best: connecting with students and guiding them through their own process of discovery.

"If you can be replaced by a YouTube video, then maybe you should be," he said. "If all you do is content delivery, the reality is there's a YouTube video out there that can do what you do. There's a MOOC that can deliver content to 2,000 students.

"Coordinating activities that are meaningful and rich, guiding kids in discussion — these are the things we do best as teachers. The way we orchestrate activities really is the value that we add for students."

Thinking about flipping? Learn the basics in Flip Your Classroom, the revolutionary book that launched the flipped movement — and take flipping to the next level with our follow-up title, Flipped Learning: Gateway to Student Engagement.